Just a Little too Medieval Maybe?

Cordoba_city_walls_sm The Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party had denounced the wall’s construction earlier Sunday.

"Isolating parts of Baghdad with barbed wire and concrete barriers will inflict social and economic damage and it will lead to more sectarian tension," it said. "This measure will harm the residents and it will have a negative impact on the areas instead of solving the problems."

Aides to al-Sadr, who had been a key al-Maliki backer but has since withdrawn his support, also criticized the barrier as an "unacceptable" move by the United States, saying they feared Shiite areas in Baghdad like Sadr City would be next.

The military said in a statement earlier this week that U.S. soldiers had begun building the wall to protect the minority community on the eastern side of the Tigris River. When the wall is finished, Azamiyah will be gated and traffic control points manned by Iraqi soldiers will be the only entries, it said, stressing that the decision had been made in coordination with the Iraqis.

U.S. and Iraqi forces have long erected cement barriers around marketplaces and coalition bases and outposts in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities to prevent attacks. U.S. forces also have built huge sand barriers around towns such as Tal Afar, an insurgent stronghold near the Syrian border.

But many residents were alarmed by the plan, and said they had not been consulted. "This will make the whole district a prison. This is collective punishment on the residents of Azamiyah," Ahmed al-Dulaimi, a 41-year-old engineer who lives in the area, said on Saturday"  Yahoo News


Did we really think that the Iraqis and Arabs in general were going to accept this?  pl


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31 Responses to Just a Little too Medieval Maybe?

  1. JDL says:

    According to press reports. Maliki said in Egypt that he had ordered the U.S to stop construction of the wall. He said it reminded him too much of another “wall” to the detriment of arabs. We’ll have to see how this conflict of wills plays out.

  2. Chris Stiles says:

    If it won’t work for only one reason, it’ll be because it is too redolent of the Israeli/Palestinian security fence.

  3. lina says:

    Have you seen the American Embassy in London lately? With all the concrete barriers, barbed wire, and armed guards, we’ve made posh and pretty Grosvenor Square look like Beirut circa 1980.
    Does anyone wonder why our international influence is waning?

  4. searp says:

    I was in Iraq (Taji) recently, and discussed Adamiyah with soldiers that had it as part of their AO.
    They said residents were building their own walls to keep out intruders. The soldiers seemed to think that was a fine idea, a relatively passive way to tamp down violence.
    I certainly find COL Lang’s view more informed than most of the stuff that is written on this topic.
    My guess is that for every Dulaimi (a name that is not a good one as far as our soldiers are concerned) there are 10 residents that would be quite happy if the wall created more security.
    I suppose we could have consulted, but the likely result would be either a mixed or dictated message.

  5. zanzibar says:

    One issue that does not get much coverage by the corporate media is the refugee crisis created by the anarchy in Iraq. It’s estimated that between 5-10% of the Iraqi population have been displaced. I have seen reports of over a million Iraqi refugees in Syria alone. This human tragedy gets no press, gets no concern by the Decider or our Congress and even worse the American people don’t seem to care for the victims that our government was instrumental in creating.
    For all the war cheerleaders everything is an abstraction. But for these refugees its all too real. If only the Decider, Shooter, Wolfie, Rummy and all those that banged the drums could just experience one day in the life of the displaced. What a shame and tragedy!

  6. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You probably know that Dulaim is the name of just about all the bedouin tribal septs in Anbar Provoince. The US Government is assiduously courting them.
    A couple of people have said something about the “historical context” that I provide. I take that to be a reflection of the attitude toward history of most Americans.
    In the Middle East the past is. It is not “historical context.” pl

  7. Ben P says:

    This is the thing, it seems to me:
    IF the US military were simply trying to control Baghdad as a part of a plan to keep Iraq under American rule, these tactics could be effective.
    Likewsie, if these policies were clearly being implemented at Maliki’s command with Iraqi forces out front and US forces on the sidelines watching, it could work.
    But it is neither. The latest poll I’ve seen – from March – showed that 59% of Iraqis think the US is really running the country, not the gov’t.
    So operations like this walls and scans strategy only serve to reinforce Maliki’s ineffecutality and the reality that America really is still running the country. I don’t see how this strategy can legitimize the Iraqi government.
    Another thing to add is that the whole sectarian construct is less entrenched then I think many in the US think it might be. At least theoretically – and I should point out that this is primarily THEORETIC at this point – Iraqis are by and large opposed to anything that smacks of sectarianism. Thus, actions like this one serve to reinforce beliefs that the US’s real goal is and has been to divide, weaken and destroy a proud Arab nation (nevermind that what exactly this nation should look like is very diff’t depending on who you talk to). Again, this does not work to legitimize the US’s political process, but does the exact oppostie.
    The only logic I can see is that the assumption is is that security became so bad that anything that works to improve security is a good, no matter what other costs come with it. And that these issues can be dealt with later. As my above points suggest, I doubt this is so.

  8. Ben P says:

    I should add: the more I think about this plan, it makes me sick.
    I was actually somewhat favorably disposed to the Petraeus COIN plan until I found out about this. They’ve tried stuff like this elsewhere in Iraq and it hasn’t worked – for example, in Fallujah.
    Besiseds some of the impact on Iraqi opinion I think it will have – neagative – I think this will be a public relations disaster in the Arab world as a whole. Even moderate Saudi financed publications like Al-Hayat are sounding the alarm. The resonance/connection to Palestine are too acute.
    I really, really question the wisdom of some fo the so-called COIN wise men they’ve called in. I really don’t think they thought this through enough.

  9. searp says:

    COL Lang: yup, I know. I also saw a lot of reports. As I said, not a good name. I guess if we’re courting they haven’t said yes.

  10. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    History, culture, foreign policy…hmm:
    “The political divisions which prevail in the Near East today should not blind us to the underlying cultural and psychological unity of the region as a whole….the far-reaching interdependence of the local states and territories imposes on the interested foreign power the obligation to approach the entire region as a unit…any foreign policy in the Near East which is not a comprehensive regional policy is an invitation to bankruptcy….”
    E.A. Speiser, The United States and the Near East (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1947), pp. 226-227.
    Professor Speiser was professor of semitics at the University of Pennsylvania. But there is a more interesting bio. He was Director of the American School of Oriental Research in Baghdad and was an authority on Mesopotamia. During WWII, he was Head of the Near East Section of the Research and Analysis Branch of the OSS.
    Americans have been in the region since the early 19th century and there are no excuses at all for current US policy. Most certainly not the excuse “If we had only known…” We did know, we do know.

  11. Dick, Houston, Texas says:

    A wall is a wall is a wall is a wall. Actions are based on perceptions, and this wall is perceived as a unilateral imposition by the occupiers. Sure, it could have worked if thought out and approached in a different way – involving a perceived mutual effort by the Iraqi government AND the Sunnis and neighborhood residents, with the Americans as just suppliers, construction superintendants, and extra security. But, come on, isn’t what actually did take place so typical of our totally inept conduct of this war? – the capability of General Patreaus (sp.) notwithstanding!

  12. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Dick of Houston
    No. All walls are not equal. The Baghdadis and everyone else in the Arab World know that this would be an admission that the country must be divided. pl

  13. Got A Watch says:

    It seems that now the construction of Baghdad’s Wallistan has been halted for good. I see a low probability that the new “oil Law” will be passed by the Iraqi Parliament, it is too unpopular with Iraqi’s and mustering a majority to vote for it looks beyond reach, even with vast American twisting of arms behind the scenes. The “Iraqi Army” isn’t standing up as fast as they are staying at home or being killed by insurgents. Overall levels of violence have not been reduced, they have just re-located to greener pastures to wait out the “surge”.
    So the “benchmarks” are well on track to fall totally short of American goals. Iraqi goals are not mentioned. Since the next oft-discussed “BenchMark Time” of ongoing assessment was supposed to be Mid-June, only 7 weeks away, the conclusions don’t look very good for a Report Card. “F”‘s all around I’d say. The insurgents get a “B+”, and a Gold Star for after-school effort.
    Leads to the next question – what now? The “W” (for Withdrawal, or whispered as “D” for Defeat) word is rising in frequency of mention.
    Will failure in Iraq prevent attack on Iran? The Benchmark’s say “no attack” but McCain is still singing “Bomb, Bomb, Iran.” Dick Cheney still shoots at ayatollah shaped cardboard targets. Too close to call.
    My guess, we are no more than 1 or 2 Friedman’s away from the end of the present “status quo” dis-equilibrium.

  14. Mo says:

    I wonder who wants the country divided. Who benefits from a divided Iraq?
    I dont think Iraqis want it.I dont think there is an Iraqi secterian problem as such. There is an Al Qaeda/ Shia problem that is spilling and bleeding into a secterian problem. But the fact that the Sadrists and the Sunni Insurgency are and have been in contact is evidence enough in my opinion that if the coalition exits, rather than civil war, those focusing their time and attention on Western foreign elements will be able to then focus their resources on other “foreign” elements.
    A divided nation seems to me to be an obvious goal for the White House. The advantages of having a seperate Kurdish state to the North, with access to much of Iraqs oil and the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates, that is pro-western and as imporantly, pro-Israeli, are manifold.
    They would be idiotic in the extreme not to have that as a major goal.

  15. Larry Mitchell says:

    Iraq seems to be reminding Chuck Hagel of Vietnam too. Here’s a link to his editorial in the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/20/AR2007042002007.html

  16. Montag says:

    It’s not just the wall. They’re planning on fingerprinting and eye-scanning the residents so that only they will be allowed in, making the neighborhood a prison–or a zoo. Yeah, that’ll work!
    Reminds me of the ancient Greek tourist in Sparta marvelling that it had no defensive wall. “Sparta’s soldiers are Sparta’s wall,” he was told.

  17. canuck says:

    The partitioning of Iraq
    Iraq is an artificial country with no natural unity, created by the British after the 1914-18 war. Under the Ottoman Empire, Iraq was divided into three vilayets (provinces): Shia Basra in the south, Sunni-dominated Baghdad in the centre, and Kurdish Mosul in the north. Partition now would assume a similar shape.
    Partition is the best solution for the sectarian enmities that have reduced Iraq to civil war. Iraq’s Government of National Unity is not united and is incapable of governing.
    The examples of former Yugoslavia and India/Pakistan show that partition is the answer when peoples cannot live peaceably together.
    There is no longer an Iraqi nation (if there ever was one): there are Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shia Arabs. Partitioning Iraq is a recognition of realities.
    Partition offers a get-out for the US and Britain. Troops could be pulled out sooner.

  18. jonst says:

    I agree with what I take to be the position that some have noted here. How in the world could the US have done this (built a wall)absent the approval of the ‘govt’. And now, given the latest statement from Ambassador Crocker, we may go ahead with the wall despite the position of the ‘govt’. Or at least the public statement of the PM.Its naive of me to ask this but how, at this stage of the thing, can they/we still be so dumb/arrogant? Were we set up? Did we get approval that has now been withdrawn?

  19. Mike G says:

    Belfast was divided up into a series of Catholic and Protestant ghettoes in an attempt to reduce sectarian violence during the troubles. The walls were a limited success in that they did keep the communities apart and prevented Prods and Papists fighting each other at the interfaces between the various religious turfs. But they did not end the problem of Northern Ireland. Violence continued, the paramilitery IRA and UVF etc carried on attacking each other and the IRA attacked the British forces and Ulster police, and nothing was really solved. The present settlement only came when negotiations were opened between all parties concerned – the British and Irish governments, and the Republican and Loyalist militants, all umpired by the Americans at the time of the Clinton administration. There is no military solution to such a situation, only a political one. Walls (Belfast, Berlin, Nicosia, Israel-Palestine, and now Baghdad) are surely symbols of failure, perpetuators of division, injustice, hatred, and distrust. Jaw jaw is better than war war as Churchill said: some time, if any solution to the fracture of Iraq is to be found, all parties will have to sit down and talk – which means that the US will have to sit at the same table as the insurgents

  20. searp says:

    I hear the wall comments and it gives me pause, but I’d like to say that I know for a fact that the residents were putting up blast walls, barriers and checkpoints in that neighborhood long before we started building the wall.
    I do not see good alternatives, maybe others have ideas? I certainly do not want a heavy American presence in that neighborhood, the IA is nothing but a Shia militia, and locally provided security would be heavily infiltrated by AQ or similar.

  21. jr786 says:

    Re: The wall; it seems as if the US has thrown in the trowel (ahem), gracefully agreeing to Iraqi wishes. Would this have been part of the original plan, as in ‘without x results in 6 weeks we will construct a wall’? Are there any kind of quantitative or quantifiable objectives in this surge tactic?
    It’s off-topic perhaps but one of the things that is most peculiar to me is that after 4 years there still seems to so little awareness of or interest in Arab/Muslim sensibility and history. My friends tell me this is what bothers them the most. Further off-topic – does anyone know of any interactions between Americans and Iraqis that have resulted in conversion, marriages, etc.? If so, would appreciate a source/link.

  22. MarcLord says:

    The primary measure of the effects of walls in Baghdad is whether their erection prompts Al-Sadr to continue his support of Maliki, or to remove it. How long can Maliki stay in power without Al-Sadr’s support?

  23. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Noting the graphic of Cordoba with the post, here is something positive to go along with it, info on Ghada Shbeir’s cd “Al-Muwashahat” and you can play short takes by clicking on left: http://cdbaby.com/cd/shbeir
    Her website has an interesting press section:
    I remember an elderly qanun player at the Al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad before the Gulf War. Wonder what has happened to him.

  24. zanzibar says:

    As discussed on SST in the recent past one of the consequences of the “surge” strategy was to leave our troops exposed in ouposts. The insurgents are adapting with deadly effect as witnessed by a suicide bomb attack today that killed 9 soldiers.
    This post by Needlenose brings together several news reports.

  25. searp says:

    MarcLord: personally, I view Al Maliki and Sadr as largely agreeing on strategy, even if they disagree on tactics.
    Al Maliki is there to modulate the American effort to provide maximum benefit to the Shia, Sadr is there to play the bad cop and marshal the Shia masses. Neither is very interested in our definition of “reconciliation”.

  26. Cold War Zoomie says:

    Can someone clue me in on what we’re doing in Iraq?
    I’m utterly dumbfounded.

  27. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Walls, bombs, adaptive tactics:
    “….One was at the Sadriya market in the city centre, where a massive car bomb killed more than 140 people.
    It was placed at the entrance to a set of barriers put up around another part of the market where a previous single bomb, in February, claimed more than 130 lives.
    The market blast “did not penetrate the emplaced barriers” a later US military press release helpfully pointed out, ignoring the fact that the bombers had yet again adapted their tactics with vicious perfection – setting off their device at the point where crowds congregated outside and at the very moment when they were busiest….”
    “There are other methods to protect neighborhoods,” al-Maliki said Sunday in his first public comments on the issue, “but I should point out that the goal was not to separate, but to protect.”
    “This wall reminds us of other walls that we reject….”
    Hundreds of demonstrators in Azamiyah shouted slogans and carried posters saying the concrete barrier would make them prisoners of their own neighborhoods and an easier target for terrorists.
    Protesters carried banners with slogans such as the “separation wall is a big prison for Azamiyah citizens” and “Azamiyah children want to see Baghdad without walls.”
    Dawood al-Azami, deputy director of the Azamiyah city council, said a questionnaire that was handed out in the area on Sunday indicated that 90% of the respondents strongly oppose the barrier…..”
    “We denounce the building of the wall, which will increase the sectarian rift,” said Um Muhammad, a teacher in Adhamiya. “We demand that occupation forces should remove it, and not to build any similar wall in other areas….This wall makes us feel as if we were in Palestine,” Akram al-Ani, of Adhamiya, said at today’s demonstration. “And this is the same wall that separates Palestinians from Israelis.”
    “….Experts and the local population believe that the building of the barriers, rather than decreasing violence, will increase the division of the country according to sect, and as such delay any peace process…..”The aim of the government should be to make fighting groups aware that we are all one community and that such differences will just bring more destruction to Iraq. But the concrete barriers will just highlight the fact that sectarian differences exist,” al-Rheiri said. ” http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/24d117eeb97208230843dd011da874a7.htm

  28. Got A Watch says:

    Juan Cole today asks “Why Are They Dying?” in a rather moving way, re: the bombing today of the outpost that killed 9 today, and in general:
    Worth a read.
    He also posts a link to this story:
    “Curfew Imposed to End Anti-Wall Protests”
    “BAGHDAD April 23 (UPI) — The erection of a U.S. “security wall” in a Sunni district of Baghdad is set to spark additional unrest in a country already torn by widespread violence.
    The U.S. and Iraqi forces slapped a curfew on the Adhamiya district in northern Baghdad Monday to prevent plans by the residents to hold a peaceful demonstration against the 12-foot high, 3-mile long wall around their area.
    Eyewitnesses said residents remained confined to their homes as Iraqi and U.S. troops surrounded Adhamiya to enforce the curfew, while U.S. military helicopters were seen hovering above the area. Instructions from mosque speakers warned the people to remain indoors after the U.S. forces allegedly threatened to forcefully confront any protests. ”
    Now there’s Democracy In Action. Apparently the protest went ahead anyway without major incident. The UPI report may not be totally reliable, but I saw similar stories in other media.
    I mentioned the Needlenose story referenced above(that he re-covers today) some time ago when these “outposts” were first proposed and we discussed how vulnerable they are here. Amazing how at-home observer’s can figure out this suff right quick, but it eludes comanders in the field – I mean high commmanders who devise these plans, not the unlucky grunts who have to try to implement them.
    Needlenose conclusion is succint: “Sadly, these soldiers are dying not just because “Bush lied” and took us into Iraq to begin with, but because he was too paralyzed by pride to take the U.S. electorate’s unsubtle hint in November that it was time to leave.
    And the longer that the neighborhood bases representing the “surge” remain sitting ducks, waiting for Iraqi guerrillas to gather enough intelligence to devise an attack plan, the more American troops will die because the Shrub-in-Chief couldn’t bring himself to admit a mistake.”

  29. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Mike G:
    There was a solution in Northern Ireland that was not tried – expulsion of all Catholics to the Irish Republic.
    This what was done after WWII in Europe.

  30. Dan says:

    There are a few comments above to the effect that Adhimiya’s resident’s were building their own walls. Yes, there isn’t a neighborhood in baghdad where local neighborhood watches haven’t done stuff like that. But a yes effort to wall off the whole area, with access control points that they would man and that all residents would have to go through to come and go, was what they didn’t like.

  31. John in LA says:

    Warsaw Ghetto, Bantustans, Jerusalem wall….we’re telling the Sunnis that they are animals and need to be fenced in like animals.
    The Nazis said this to the jews.
    The Boers said this to the Africans.
    The Israelis said this to the Palestinians.
    When you have to pen people in and point guns at them…well, you’re pretty much at the end of your imperial exercise…

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